Microalgae: An alternative as sustainable source of biofuels?
However, large-scale implementation of microalga-based systems to manufacture biodiesel and biohydrogen has been economically constrained by their still poor volumetric efficiencies, which imply excessively high costs when compared with current petrofuel prices. Technological improvements are accordingly critical, both on the biocatalyst and the bioreactor levels. The current bottlenecks that have apparently precluded full industrial exploitation of microalgae cells are critically discussed here, viz. those derived from the scarce knowledge on the mechanisms that control regulation of gene expression, the reduced number of species subjected to successful genetic transformation, the relatively low cell density attainable, the poor efficiency in harvesting, and the difficulties in light capture and use.Therefore, this paper provides an overview of the feasibility of microalgae for production of biofuels via synthesis of liquid endocellular metabolites (i.e. triglycerides) and gaseous extracellular ones (i.e. molecular hydrogen), and addresses technical and economic shortcomings and opportunities along the whole processing chain, at both microorganism and reactor levels.
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